Tractor Aerodynamics

“Adding items like tractor-trailer gap devices, chassis fairings, drive wheel fairings and wheel covers, etc., to today’s already aerodynamic tractors, allows fleets to further improve fuel efficiency.”

Laura Ricart – Chief Engineer, Vehicle Performance Integration and Aerodynamics, Navistar

Aerodynamic improvement of commercial tractors has been a primary contributor to significant reductions in the fleet operating costs and reductions in harmful emissions by improving the efficiency of the use of energy to move vehicles down the road. The per-vehicle fuel economy benefit of optimizing the aerodynamics of a tractor can be high. OEMs offer a range of tractor “models,” reflecting broad design elements that are prioritized by each of a certain segment of the trucking industry. The importance of tractor aerodynamics is well recognized, and is a major consideration of OEMs in designing their base models and they are constantly working on improving the performance of their tractors. Each base model is aerodynamically optimized by the OEM, which will view the entire tractor as a unified system interacting with the air flows. In addition, there are other areas of the tractor where a fleet may choose to invest in additional aerodynamic devices to further optimize their tractor. This includes things like cab extenders, roof extenders, tractor-trailer gap devices, mirrors and cameras, sunshades, headlamps, bumpers, chassis fairings, drive wheel fairings, fifth wheel location and height, wheel covers and vented mud flaps.

Decision-Making Tools

The Confidence Matrix has been issued to help fleets make decisions about tractor aerodynamic devices.